NYC. Start. Write. Now Challenge

Hello New York City community! We hope you are excited for the unveiling of the first ever New York City Start.Write.Now. challenge!

2020 was certainly a whirlwind and as this summer wraps up, we hope you can begin to showcase all of your talents with this challenge. We are ecstatic to present the illustrious alumnus, artist, writer, and curator who will kick us off……

Carl Hazlewood !!!

Visual artist, curator, and writer. Hazlewood is co-founder of Aljira, A Center for Contemporary Art in Newark, New Jersey,

Check out Carl’s extended bio and awards at the bottom of the page. Carl is truly a marvelous thinker, creator and curator. Find recent features of Carl Hazlewood’s work here. More information on Carl and his creative journey will be shared in the upcoming blog posts.

START. WRITE. NOW. CHALLENGE

CARL HAZLEWOOD’S PROMPT FOR YOUNG ARTISTS & WRITERS:

The Magic of the Ordinary

I spent a lot of time alone as a kid because of my health problems. But I had a yearning to discover the world—to understand it. I decided that while that world seemed special, it was made up of a lot of ‘ordinary’ things… shoes, hats, toothbrushes, safety pins, etc., stuff we’ve all used, whether rich or poor, and now take for granted. So I began a study of the ordinary things around me. This lead me to understand that everything—no matter how simple—has a history that can illuminate our multiple cultures.

Kids have been stuck at home bored for months now, and I challenge each one to select a random item in your room or house to study. Then ask questions about the object.

For example, 10-year-old me began with a cup, since I was holding a cup of cocoa when I had that insight. I could have started with questions about the cocoa and its origins, which would have taken me down another historical path. But I chose to begin with the cup. Keep notes, keep asking questions. Finding answers now is much easier with the internet and Google providing the images and info. I had to pour through encyclopedias at the library. But that’s okay, your job is a bit easier. The point of the exercise is the excitement of discovery, the revelation that the simplest thing was innovative at the time it was first created and its existence reverberates through history and affects culture everywhere. What’s the definition of a cup? A chair? A spoon? When and where was one first used? What was it made of? Write down each answer in a small notebook. Draw an image of your own design, etc.

Please share your artistic and literary creations with NYC@ARTANDWRITING.ORG with the subject line ” Start.Write.Now. Challenge by September 20 to have your work featured in the NYC Facebook.

 

THE INTERVIEW:

We asked Carl a series of questions about his journey, creative process, and recommendations for young people writing personal statements and developing art and writing portfolios.

What are you up to now? 

Interestingly enough, I’ve suddenly become a ‘young’ artist again, after dedicating nearly four decades to work as an independent curator, critic, writer, and teacher—and after being preoccupied with the artistic program and progress of Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art, an organization I’d co-founded in Newark, New Jersey in 1984.

I made the decision to reduce my other activities and re-focus on my own art. I did not want to paint straight away, so I looked around, saw I had lots of good quality paper on hand, and asked, what can I do with this? I can draw on it. But that’s too easy. I can pin it on the wall. What happens if I flip it or fold it? I can also roll it, spin it, etc. With this daily exercise, I began a new routine of making something new everyday and taking it down after documenting it. Eventually, I posted some of my works in progress on Facebook, not particularly for people to see, but rather to read them in a different way. People started commenting, then someone anonymously recommended me for The Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant. Although I lacked the right technology to respond with the proper documentation required at the time, this moment was definitely an igniting force. 

Long ago I’d been invited to the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, while still an undergraduate at Pratt, but although I’ve written many recommendations for others over the years, it’s only quite recently that I focused on applying to prestigious national and international residencies for myself. I find artist residencies very useful and inspirational in the way they focus your time and attention, and how they encourage useful interaction with other superb artists and writers. I’ve had MacDowell and Yaddo fellowships, among others. In 2018 I worked mainly in Europe. I completed fellowships in France with The Brown Foundation Fellows Program at the Dora Maar House (administered by MFAH, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston), and in Italy with the Bogliasco Foundation Ligura Study Center for the Arts and Humanities, overlooking the Mediterranean. On my return from Europe I was offered opportunities at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Triangle Governor’s Island Residency in NY.  This year, just before the COVID-19 pandemic, I had my first commercial solo exhibition at the June Kelly Gallery in SoHo, just up the street from Scholastic Inc.

While over the years I’ve shown in various non-profit, alternative, university or museum exhibitions, one of the last commercial galleries that regularly showed my paintings in the 1980s, before my hiatus to work for Aljira, was the Harris Gallery in Houston. Serendipitously, the Medical Center where I’d had an operation so long before, decided to purchase several 6 to 8 foot high paintings from my first sold out solo show. Which means maybe somewhere in the Medical Center there’s a child healing who is looking at my work on the wall and may be inspired just as I was to live a dream and eventually share their own story, just as I have.

Share your creative process 

Most young people now go to college and learn art. For me art was always a part of life. I did not go to school to learn to BE an artist; it was simply an expressive aspect of daily experience. For practical art techniques at a very young age, in the absence of teachers, I learned on my own from experimentation or from ‘recipes’ found in books. At 14, 15, I researched how to make charcoal, how to mix egg tempera, encaustic, pastels, etc. My process now remains pretty much the same as when I was a kid. I read a lot… fiction, sci-fi, or just about anything entertaining or literary. Plus I constantly look at a lot of images from all parts of the world—historical and contemporary. I don’t have to ‘like’ a thing to respect its intention or achievement. I try not to get bogged down in (other folks) theory. I think art theory generally should emerge from art, not the other way around. In this cultural moment, art, poetry, and literature seem to have much political work to do, but creatives have always responded to society’s needs. However, while I appreciate various subjective and conceptual approaches, including the social, or explorations of identity, my own tendency is toward an aware universality, something that could embody the complications of the present while speaking to the timelessness of art and objects. 

What do you recommend for young creatives who want to write an impactful personal statement, and create an outstanding portfolio?

For the personal statement, the key is to keep it simple. Try not to sound overly intellectual; it just appears pretentious. Decide what you want to do in your work and say it plainly. Don’t try to remake the wheel. It shows you are unacquainted with your medium, that you don’t know it’s been done before. Have a couple of other people read whatever you write before sending it off. The same with images. Has several people look at your selection and listen carefully to what they have to say, positive and negative. But you have to make the final decision. Young people and adults sometimes become too involved with a particular work. They feel they’ve made a masterpiece but don’t realize the thing they love so much may not be communicating what they intend. And masterpiece is a term others may ascribe to your work at some point…maybe. Never define any of your own work with that word. 

Give yourself time off from looking. Then look again.

The first set of pieces in a portfolio should be something that catches the eye visually, whether literary or artistic. Your main goal is to find a way to stop the eye, and encourage the viewer to check out the rest.  Images should be curated; select works that demonstrate how good you are technically and conceptually. Do not send anything that exposes your weaknesses. Be honest about what you’re not good at. People you select to pre-view your work before submission should be objective and honest. After that only you can make the final decision concerning what goes where. It’s a combination of constructive criticism, your personal preference, and the raw emotion connected to the work at hand. 

Pro Tips for an Artist/Writing Portfolio: 

  1. Portfolio works should be a cohesive body that represents your abilities.
  2. Be direct in your writing. Be clear and stay away from artificiality.  
  3. Talk about what the work is actually doing , or what you intend to do. 
  4. For Artists: Take the best images you can. Not shiny, but well lit photos with good resolution. 
  5. Don’t be afraid to be subtly *dramatic* Make it special.  

Carl Hazlewood’s Extended Bio

Aljira celebrated 30 years with the exhibition, ‘Aljira at 30 – Dreams and Reality’, co-curated by Hazlewood, for the New Jersey State Museum, 2014. He lectured in Art History at New Jersey City University, and was a visiting critic at various institutions, most recently, Pratt Institute, 2019. Currently associate editor for Okwui Enwezor’s Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art (Duke University), and The Arts Journal: Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Literature, History, Art and Culture of Guyana and the Caribbean (Georgetown, Guyana). His writing has appeared in many other periodicals, including Flash Art International (Rome); ART PAPERS Magazine (Atlanta) and NY Arts Magazine (NY). Recent contributions of essays to catalogues and books include, Terry Adkins: RECITAL (Tang Museum, Skidmore University, Saratoga) and the Samuel Dorsky Museum book/catalogue, Andrew Lyght – FULL CIRCLE, both in 2017.

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